In the wee hours of Tuesday, February 14, a Winnipeg bus driver was assaulted by a knife-wielding passenger who had been asked several times to exit the bus, because it had come to the end of the route and was out of service. The driver died later in hospital.
Later that day, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Amarjeet Sohi, rose in the House of Commons to pay tribute to the slain Winnipeg Transit employee. Mr. Sohi’s comments included that he was a former bus driver; this brought a chorus of laughter from Progressive Conservative members. In my opinion, this display of disrespect demonstrated without a doubt the PC’s elitist tendencies.
The following day, Adam Vaughan (Spadina — Fort York) rose in the House on a point of order to demand an apology for the outbreak of laughter. The response from House Leader of the Opposition, Candice Bergen, was fine up to the point she uttered the words, “I’m not sure what laughter; there’s all kinds of laughter that occurs here.” To me that showed her words were insincere, trite, and disrespectful.
This brings me to the events of last Sunday evening at the Niagara Falls bus terminal. I was waiting for the 19:30 Megabus departure on Platform 2 when an altercation between a male passenger and the GO bus driver erupted on Platform 1. I kept my distance, because this dude was dropping “F-bombs” like there was no tomorrow. As best as I could tell, the dispute was fare related. Before I boarded my bus, I saw two NRPS cruisers arriving on the scene. I trust the melee subsided quickly after that.
On the trip to Toronto, I got to wondering why a driver would debate payment of a fare with that kind of passenger, endure verbal disrespect and possible physical abuse, especially in light of what had happened in Winnipeg. I wondered what that the highest GO Transit fare from Niagara Falls might be. Let’s say it’s to Peterborough — $26.65 one way.
I value my life more than that amount; most people do. Why not wave the passenger on board to avoid a confrontation, radio the control centre to have police or GO Transit’s constables meet the bus at the next stop and haul the passenger off the bus? I understand that drivers are on the front line for trip policies and procedures, but to what extent?
In my opinion, drivers must not forget their real obligations — to family and friends. The driver in Winnipeg may have been right per the rules of the transit company, but in the end he lost at a much larger game. It’s a job. There are more important things in life. Understand and respect that.
Let me wrap up by reminding everyone that Transit Driver Appreciation Day is March 18. This year that date is a Saturday, so the day will be celebrated on March 17, too. A simple cheery “Thank you” goes a long way. So does a tea or coffee. And in Niagara Falls, I’m given to understand that delivered wonton soup is the ultimate compliment.